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Miss USA Chelsea Cooley last 'Celebrity Cooking Showdown' finalist

By Tim Andrews, 04/20/2006 

And she can cook too! Reigning Miss USA Chelsea Cooley proved she’s not just another pretty face as she defeated comedian Tom Arnold and country singer Big Kenny on the third night of NBC's week-long Celebrity Cooking Showdown competition. After a result, Chelsea will face off against Monday night winner Cindy Margolis and Tuesday night winner Ashley Parker Angel in this evening's final cooking showdown.

Following the same format as the two previous first round competitions, Wednesday night's broadcast of Celebrity Cooking Showdown's third episode featured the three new celebrities each teamed with one of the show's three master chefs. Chelsea was teamed with Food Network star Cat Cora. Tom was paired with restaurateur Wolfgang Puck. Big Kenny was teamed up with celebrity chef Govind Armstrong.

After the introductions were out of the way, the show featured behind-the-scenes video clips showing the master chefs training their three new stars. Along the way, we learned that Tom's favorite part of cooking was "eating" and Big Kenny's preparation for the event included perfecting how he would say the word "tasty."

Once the cooking portion of the event started, Big Kenny's oversized personalities took center stage as he pumped up the crowd early and often. Tom, who initially seemed lost, eventually got his stride but appeared so focused on his cooking that he somewhat tuned out the live audience. Meanwhile, Chelsea pageant skills seemed to allow her to fall somewhere in the middle, engaging the raucous crowd without appearing to lose focus on what she was working on in the kitchen.

As in previous episodes, the chefs were able to assist the celebrities during the "chef pass" portion of the event. However, unlike previous nights in which their help appeared to be essential to the outcome, this time they appeared to serve as a just an added spice to the main dishes. As the event completed, the plating of the dishes never seemed to be an issue. All three celebrities appeared to finish in plenty of time to present their dishes to the judges -- although just like Tuesday night, Wolfgang appeared to once again add some flare by holding Tom's final dish for presentation until the last second.

During the judging, celebrity event planner Colin Cowie and restaurant critic Gael Greene heaped praise on all three of the contestants' dishes -- with Colin going so far as stating Chelsea’s presentation was "flawless." Upon tasting the dishes the judges were a bit less impressed, but not tremendously so. As a result, it came as little shock that when once the judges' votes were counted the competition was the closest of any night thus far, with Big Kenny and Tom finishing in a tie and Chelsea winning by a single point.

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